The company was founded in 1889, but real success was seen only in 1892, when Johan Throne Holst (1868–1946) took over management. Holst realized that there was a potential market for edible milk chocolate, in addition to the dark chocolate and other minor products Freia were producing at the time. Holst built up Freia to be Norway's leading chocolate manufacturer. By the turn of the century, Freia was the leading Norwegian brand in sweets. Since its inception the factory has been in the Rodeløkka neighborhood in the borough of Grünerløkka in Oslo.
Based on the success in Norway, the Throne-Holst family in 1916 founded the chocolate factory Marabou in Sundbyberg outside of Stockholm in Sweden and later moved in 1943 to the present location in Upplands Väsby. The name Freia (or Freja) could not be used due to a conflicting trademark in Sweden. The name Marabou was chosen instead from the marabou stork, the species of bird on the Freia logo.
Freia was purchased in 1993 by Kraft Foods Nordic (today known as Mondelēz International), for NOK 3 billion. The company’s flagship product has since then been the milk chocolate candy bar, Freia Melkesjokolade. On the basis of this famous product, Freia produces several other candy bars, with added nuts, raisins, cookies and Daim pieces. The brand has constantly been marketed in a national romantic spirit – as the essence of everything that is Norwegian. Their slogan is "Et lite stykke av Norge" (A small piece of Norway).
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